There Is Honour In Honorary

A friend sent me the above article written by a former senior Armed Forces officer on the subject of “honorary” ranks.  I have taken the liberty to share the article below:

As long as I can remember and it is important that we consider this, the only other persons outside the military who donned military uniform were our royalty (the Raja Raja) in their capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the various Corps that made up our armed forces that included the navy and air force. It is largely a ceremonial position that is a common feature in several Commonwealth armies.

However, our country is unique. We have nine Raja Raja who in order of seniority act as patron to the corresponding senior unit they are assigned. It is more or less a permanent inherited position that is, a well-respected custom that remains unchanged to this day.

Military officers whether serving or retired are very proud of our uniform, ranks and military accoutrements. The king, who is also our commander-in-chief, by way of a formal document commissions us. We undergo rigorous training at the various officers training academies domestic and foreign to be commissioned as second lieutenants (one pip) as our initial rank.

It is a long and arduous journey as we progress through a maze of military requirements that consists of passing promotion examinations and career courses to earn a higher rank. Few ever qualify for the rank of general of various grades but as professional soldiers we serve our country and navigate the complex eco system of military service to excel professionally.

Those who served during the height of the Emergency and the Indonesian Confrontation as front line troops bore the full brunt of those conflicts. Many of our comrades were maimed and others made the ultimate sacrifice. Thus the weight of history is borne by all who wear the military uniform, and whatever exclusivity it brings is defined by those who served and continue to serve our “tanah air.”

As military officers, we are very concerned that of late, politicians have begun dispensing “commission ranks” — colonels, generals and captains (navy) — among themselves which also extends to other celebrities such as singers, actors, sportsmen and social activists. None of these people have ever fired a shot in defence of the realm or done a day of military training.

Some even proudly display the converted Parachute Badge commonly referred as “Jump Wings” without doing a single jump. There are also cases where certain individuals have the audacity to don the converted maroon beret of our commando units. We adhere to the belief and convention that no one other than the Raja Raja have the right to this honour.

I think it is time we put a stop to these so-called honorary ranks and unauthorised use of military accoutrements. If there is a need for such ranks to be handed out then those chosen need to at least pass basic military training before even being considered for such an honour.

Otherwise, those “rewarded” dishonour the service of men and women, who have actually earned their ranks in the process of serving their king and country.

And lastly I would like to add that of late that large number of non military organisations have all gone “al military/police” by wearing military type ranks, insignias and camouflage uniform to the boot. Let’s keep the ranks of lieutenant, captain, major, colonel etc strictly for the military only.

The top echelon of these organisations have also chosen to wear the cross swords/kris an insignia normally reserved for our top generals and very senior police officers. By doing so they not only confuse the public but our soldiers and policemen as to their standing in protocol.

The country should have only two recognised institutions known as the uniformed service that’s the army and the police.

It’s about time our authorities do something about by having proper guidelines to this effect.

I am puzzled that a retired senior Armed Forces officer does not know that the provision for Honorary commissions exists in the Armed Forces Act, 1972.  I first came across this provision when I studied the Act for the Military Law subject during my Officer Cadet days.

Under Section 8 of the Act it says:

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong may grant honorary commissions in the regular forces to such persons as he may think fit.

Honorary Colonels (Navy Captains), for example, are given to civilians whose position in his or her organisation commands assets of strategic importance to the Malaysian Armed Forces, such as the Malayan Railway, ports authorities, the MISC, TNB, Telekom etc., etc., and honorary ranks go down all the way to Honorary Captains (Navy Lieutenants).  The lower ranks include esteemed sportsmen and sportswomen and individuals whose charisma and value to the society would be valuable to the service they are commissioned into, such as to inspire the men and women of the service, to act as a bridge between the service and related civilian agencies, and also to promote the service in public relations exercises.

They are all given the honorary commission of the respective service’s volunteer reserve force.

Therefore you get sportsmen and sportswomen such as Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Datuk Nichol David who have been commissioned into the Navy and Air Force respectively.  You have Dato Irmohizam Ibrahim, the Member of Parliament for Kuala Selangor who has been commissioned into the Navy.  He was selected for the honorary commission by virtue that he is the Chairman of the Lembaga Kemajuan Perikanan Malaysia and has been actively involved in promoting the Navy’s RAKAM (Rakan Maritim) initiative for the fishing community.

Why is this a big thing? Richie McCaw, the former New Zealand’s All Blacks Captain was made Honorary Wing Commander (Lieutenant Colonel equivalent) of the Royal New Zealand Air Force!

The Indian Air Force gave honorary Group Captain (Colonel equivalent) to Sachin Tendulkar, India’s cricket team captain.

These individuals are commissioned as honorary officers in the volunteer forces of the three services of the Armed Forces. These officers do not need to fire any gun as they do not have command status.  However, if there is a request and the command of the service the honorary officer is commissioned into, it would be at the expense of the honorary officer him/herself.

Nor do they get any remuneration from the Armed Forces except for the one-off RM1,000 for them to make their uniform and buy the accessories.  They are also not subjected to the Armed Forces Act and neither are they given a service number.

And it is not up to politicians to hand out ranks.  The commission is given by the Yang DiPertuan Agong on the advice of the Armed Forces Council which comprises of the Minister of Defence, a representative of the Rulers appointed by the Rulers Institution, the Chief Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, the Armed Forces Chief, the Chief of the Services, and two other members appointed by the Yang DiPertuan Agong.

The Colonels-in-Chief and Captain-in-Chief of the respective Corps or Service would have a say on the Honorary commission to be awarded by the corps or service they preside over.  For example, His Royal Highness the Sultan of Selangor as the Captain-in-Chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy has set the number of honorary commissioned officers at 50.  Therefore, the Chief of Navy has to carefully select the individuals the Navy believes to be worthy of such commission.

No wings are given out to these honorary officers unless they have such qualification.  There are cases where former servicemen have been given honorary commission for the role they play in bridging the society and the armed forces, such as Datuk Huan Cheng Guan, who was an other rank in the Royal Malaysian Air Force.  He received an honorary commission for his tireless effort in bridging the society with the armed forces.

If Datuk Huan had a jump wing when he was serving, there is no reason for him not to don the wing if he wears the uniform of an honorary officer.

If Khairy Jamaluddin is the one that is being referred to, then let it be known that he is an active reservist and had undergone basic parachute training and therefore deserves to don the wing on his uniform.  He is also a Brigadier General in the Askar Wataniah.

MS Dhoni, another captain of India’s cricket team was not only given an honorary Lieutenant Colonel but also the jump wings of India’s Parachute Regiment, the regiment he was commissioned into honorarily.

Just like in India, it is customary for any commander of any regiment, corps or service to award honorary jump or pilot’s wings to any individual that they see fit.

As for civilian organisations that have ranks similar to the military and police, I can see several that have that kind of rank.  The Angkatan Pertahanan Awam is Malaysia’s Civil Defence Force and plays a role during wartime in assisting in the defence of the country.  Therefore, it deserves the ranks.  Oddly, it uses military ranks up to Colonel and then use police ranks for star officers.

RELA uses civilian ranks akin to the police because they come from the same Ministry and RELA acts as a support organisation to maintain public order, security and safety.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), although a civilian organisation but like the police it is an armed service.  Its Director-General is appointed by the Yang DiPertuan Agong and plays the role of a paramilitary force at sea maintaining our sovereignty.  I see nothing wrong with them using Navy-like ranks because of the huge role that they play.

The MMEA is not like UK’s Coast Guard which is a purely search-and-rescue outfit, while the MMEA does law enforcement, maritime border control as well as search-and-rescue.

Perhaps, Lt Col Mohd Idris should also know that the Salvation Army uses military ranks and even have military training academies and corps.  However, I have yet to see anyone complain in the newspapers over such petty issue.

Therefore, why should we complain over something that is completely legal and is awarded by the Rulers?

Going Sul

  

9M-MTG, the aircraft that flew as MH132 during the event – photo credit Stefan Perkas

 

MH132 took off from Auckland on the 24th December 2015 and was headed towards Kuala Lumpur. 

Eight minutes into the flight the pilot queried the air traffic controller why was the flight being directed more South than the flight plan he had in hand. Airways, the agency that handles airspace traffic management in New Zealand told the pilot that that was the flight plan submitted to them by Malaysia Airlines’s Operations Dispatch Centre (ODC).

Many read only the headlines in various news portals and began to make fun of Malaysia Airlines. Already reeling from the wounds of MH370 and MH17, this latest incident isn’t the kind of publicity the airline would want to have. Even in Whatsapp groups that I belong to misinformed persons were making jokes of Malaysia Airlines. I had to correct their perception and so did a senior airline Captain in one of the groups.

Malaysia Airlines pilots do not make their flight plans. It is up to the ODC to do so and pilots fly the routes prescribed. The ODC will then submit the flight plan to the countries the aircraft will be flying from, over and to and the air traffic management agencies will then review the requested altitude and route and amend if necessary before clearing. A copy of the flight plan will then be dispatched to the flight crew involved.

Flying from Auckland to Kuala Lumpur will normally take a northwestern route passing, for example, Brisbane. However, due to headwinds caused by high-altitude jetstreams, or if severe thunderstorms are expected en route then a southwesterly route is taken – either passing over Melbourne or Sydney, before tracking northwesterly again towards Kuala Lumpur. In this case, the aircraft flew heading towards Melbourne before it was then directed towards Sydney and flew just south of the latter city. As a matter of fact, the aircraft landed in Kuala Lumpur nine minutes ahead of schedule. The aircraft would have had more than enough fuel for this route plus a buffer for diversions and the different routing was not a safety issue at all.
However, it is of my opinion that Malaysia Airlines should look into why was Airways not updated by the ODC when the pilots had been updated.

This occurrence is not something peculiar that it demands the negative publicity it received. It is just because it is Malaysia Airlines, an easy target for sensationalists.

Diplomatic Insanity

The latest incident involving a Warrant Officer of the Malaysian Armed Forces attached to the Malaysian High Commission in New Zealand who was arrested on 9th May for attempted burglary and sexual assault is one that is both simple but complex in nature, but comes with a simple solution.

The crime may not be as bad as the crimes committed by Arjen Rudd, the South African diplomat in the blockbuster movie “Lethal Weapon 2” (played by Joss Ackland) nor is it as bad as an incident involving the Ambassador of Myanmar to Sri Lanka, but the crimes committed by this Warrant Officer warrants a serious action. In all the instances above, the clause “Diplomatic Immunity” was invoked.

Contrary to popular belief, Article 37 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations says that as long as you are a member of the Embassy staff, you are entitled to the immunities prescribed in Articles 29 thru 36; and this includes spouse, children, maids, servants working there, plus minus one or two articles for non-staff. The Warrant Officer is a diplomatic agent, and under Article 29 he is inviolable: he cannot be prosecuted for any crime committed in the Receiving State which, in this case, is New Zealand.

As in the case of the Myanmar Ambassador to Sri Lanka, the Ambassador in 1979 suspected his wife of having an affair, shot her. Then, on the grounds of the Embassy, he built a funeral pyre and cremated his wife in full view of the police, media and the public AND STILL REMAINED AN AMBASSADOR! This is how strong Article 29 is.

The Warrant Officer was brought back to Malaysia on the 22nd of May after the Malaysian High Commission invoked the man’s diplomatic immunity. On the 29th May, the Malaysian Armed Forces convened a. Board of Inquiry into the incident, and none of us would have known of this until someone in New Zealand kicked up so much fuss to not notice!

Is it right, however, to not send him back to New Zealand to face charges?

The Government of Malaysia should use Article 32 para 1 of the Convention to waive his diplomat status and express this waiver as prescribed in Para 2 of the same Article. Then send this guy back to. New Zealand to dance to the tune he had asked for, while the Foreign Ministry work on repairing the damage done.

We cannot ignore nor condone blatant criminal acts by our civil servants or by any individual of the public, especially when in other countries. We should not jeopardise Malaysia’s reputation abroad just for the sake of one criminal.

Therefore, I call upon Anifah Aman to do the right thing: crucify the Warrant Officer and stop this diplomatic insanity!

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